How I popped my SI joint back in, using baduanjin

A couple of months ago I put my Sacroiliac joint out doing Jiujitsu. Typical symptoms are pain walking, standing in one spot and generally everything involving being alive. I didn’t know it was out initially so carried on training for a couple of days, but the pain steadily increased until I sought help from a sports therapist who diagnosed me, followed by a painful massage which felt good afterwards, not during!

This video shows where the Sacroiliac joint (SI joint) is located (it’s the meeting of the sacrum and the iliac.) The pelvis is not one bone, it’s three bones and the SI joints are what connects them together. The presenters are a bit crazy, but I kind of like them:

As you can see, there’s not much movement in the joint at all, and when it gets jolted it can move out of alignment and that’s when you get all the problems I had. Naturally, your other muscles and tendons have to compensate for the joint being out, and they object, strongly! In my case my piriformis was particularly unhappy about the situation and wanted to let me know by inflaming. Ouch!

I want to post a picture of the piriformis showing its location, but at lot of these medical pictures are copyrighted, so I’ll link to a page that has one instead here. The picture of the posterior of the pelvis is here.

Now the video above shows various ways to pop your SI joint back in the right place, but I did it using the baduanjin exercise I was taught as part of Chinese Qigong, so I thought it was worth talking about here.

After a sports massage to relax the tendons I did the usual Baduajin routine I do regularly as part of my morning routine, and during one particular exercise I felt the SI joint pop back in place straight away.

Baduanjin 八段錦 (translates as ‘8 silk force’ or ‘8 pieces of brocade’) are a set of Chinese exercises that could be up to a thousand years old. Simon Cox has a great history of the baduanjin (including a video of them being done) on his website here.

The version of baduanjin I do is way simpler than Simon’s version from Wudang mountain. Here’s a video of my version done by Sifu Kerr of the Spinning Dragon Tao Youtube channel (whose videos are worth checking out as well):

At 6.48 he does “Stretch and Glare to the Horizon” which is the exercise that immediately popped my SI joint back in. I prefer to do that one with my hands in fists rather than the “sword fingers” Sifu Kerr is using, I don’t think it would make any difference to what’s happening to your SI joint either way.

In the Okanagan Valley Wading video that exercises is called “7. 攒拳怒目增力气 Make a fist and with glaring eyes increase your power and qi,”:

But they do it with the fist vertical and very much as a hard punch. The variation I prefer myself is doing it as a slower stretch and I keep my fists horizontal, and a bit bent downwards, so effectively out of alignment for a punch, but with an increased stretch across the yang channels on the outside of the forearm. With the slower stretch version you can really feel the counter rotation on the spine as one arm is stretching forward, the other is simultaneously stretching backwards and you are doing your best to not let your pelvis move – just keep it facing 100% forward and level in a horse stance… And that’s what did it – pop! I felt my SI pain immediately go and the joint felt normal again. Relief!

Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely, circled in red, was the exercise that did it for me.

As you can see, there are many variations on the baduanjin, (just look at how many you can find on YouTube!). So, I’d suggest sticking with whatever version your teacher gives you. The important thing is these exercises put my SI joint back in place, and for that I’m very thankful, as is my piriformis, which took a couple of weeks to quieten down, but hasn’t bothered me since.

If you ever put your SI joint out, it’s good to know how to put it back, so try the above. I’d recommend a sports massage as well, to deal with the inflamed tendons caused by it being out of place.

Just as an aside, Ellis Amdur wrote a brilliant article that I’d recommend about Baduanjin Used as a Therapeutic Activity Within a Youth Detention Facility. Check it out.

One thought on “How I popped my SI joint back in, using baduanjin

  1. Thanks Graham. There’s a lot of good information here. You keep gravitating toward topics in my wheelhouse. I’d like to add to your blog a bit, and clarify a few lay terms without getting too jargon laden. Maintaining a healthy and pain-free lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC), which includes the SI joint, is a key to a healthy, active life.

    The PT video identifies the SI joint. The space between bones is filled almost entirely with ligaments. Think of these as strong, fibrous rubber bands, lashing the bones together. Ligaments work best when they are nice and tight. This allows the small amount of mobility the joint needs and a prompt return to a stable, neutral position.

    This is important, because there is not really anything to go “out” in the SI joint itself. Instead, a neuro-muscular tension pattern develops, often because of inflammation, in the muscles of the LPHC that keeps the bones from returning to their neutral position. This is quite common, and it can go on for years.

    There are two approaches to relieving this. First, move the bones into their neutral position, so the muscles in the tension pattern can relax. Putting the foot on the stool in the video is an example of this, and there are chiropractic and osteopathic techniques too.

    Second, cause the muscles in the tension pattern to relax to allow the bones to resume their neutral position. This can be done with massage, tensing and relaxing (including Muscle Energy Technique), reciprocal inhibition techniques, meditation, and muscle relaxant medications. Inflammation is often involved, so anti-inflammatories can help too. For me, it’s not a choice of a single, best method. I do everything I can.

    In your case, to be a little technical, the sports massage relaxed your muscles which released the tension on the tendons, which were attached to the pelvic bones. The massage likely disrupted the tension pattern, so it could start “unwinding”. As the tension pattern decays and the majority of the tension is released, the settling of the joint into its neutral position occasionally causes a “pop”. The “pop” is a nitrogen release much like cracking your knuckles.

    Movements like those you were doing in the Ba Duan Jin were requiring some movement in the SI joint and allowed the joint to start moving and settle. Gentle movements like this are ideal to help get the joint moving again, however I’ve had clients report the pop while walking, getting out of the car, turning over in bed, and a host of other movements. The “pop” is neither required to resolve the issue, nor is it particularly desirable.

    Accidents happen that can cause acute, extremely painful SI joint issues. The vast majority of SI joint issues, however, are caused by things like a bad sleep position, a wallet in a back pocket, or other awkward sitting positions, and a host of other causes from everyday life. Because the LPHC is so central to the kinetic chain, any pain in the SI joint can get overshadowed by foot, knee, hip, back, neck, shoulder, or even elbow pain, of which the SI joint or other LPHC imbalances can be at the root. Awareness is really important to help keep a balanced and functional LPHC.

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